Design for Museum Learning: Visitor-Constructed Trails Using Mobile Technologies
Handbook of Design in Educational Technology
This sole-author chapter investigates how people learn in and from museums, through encounters with artefacts that are mediated by portable digital technologies. It provides evidence that technology can help manage the amount of information visitors encounter, instead of increasing it, through specially designed activities that structure the use of technology. One such activity – visitor-constructed trails through museums – is discussed in depth, with attention to how (and to what extent) the activity is structured, the contexts in which it takes place, and how various tools and resources mediate and support the activity.
This research was cited in the 2013 UNESCO report The Future of Mobile Learning: Implications for Policy Makers and Planners (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002196/219637E.pdf), a series seeking better understanding of how mobile technologies can be used to improve educational access, equity and quality around the world, comprising 14 individual papers published in 2012 and 2013. The publication is also used in teacher training at the Institute of Education, University of London.
This research is grounded in a conceptual model iteratively developed in three studies involving different visitor and museum types. Trails were investigated in art, science and history museums, with adults, primary school pupils and teenagers, and some value was demonstrated in all these cases; overall, trails were found to be effective for structuring meaning making by visitors when they had a clear goal, limited scope, and well-defined product, and were conducted entirely in the museum, without the need for post-visit editing. One contribution to museum education is the validation of technology-mediated trails as an activity for visitors’ meaning making from artefacts. Value was also demonstrated with simple, common technologies that visitors already carry, including digital audio player/recorders and mobile phones. Evidence was provided that digital technologies can help bridge contexts of visitors and artefacts.